Overview

The tournament in Toluca was a big success for me. It was a “light” trip for me and my first tournament away from Europe in a long time. There was no real adjustment to time difference.

The organization of the event was not perfect but everybody did their best. The late start of the first, second and fourth rounds was irritating for the players. It was difficult to avoid considering 1300 players took part in the event and registration took place on the first two days. The Mexican Youth Championships and the Women’s Championships took place in the same playing hall, as well as other sections by rating. The players agreed that the time control for the event, at 120min/40moves + 30min for the rest of the game and 30sec added from move one, was too long when playing two games a day. Long morning games would take too much out of the players and potentially delay the start of the evening round.

Outside of that the organization of the event was pretty good. The hotel was five stars. I went swimming several times during the tournament. The organizers addressed the players’ concerns. They even ordered (and paid) for a taxi for me to the airport at the end of the tournament.

The atmosphere created by Mexican spectators was great. There is real love for chess in Mexico. In the last few days of the tournament the GMs were asked to sign many autographs for kids as well as adults. There was clear appreciation for the chess players. Many spectators came to watch the games throughout the event.

As for myself, I feel like I played energetic chess at the end of the event. My 6th, 7th and 9th round games showed good wins. I came out on top during those sharp struggles.

Time to get to some photos!

The playing hall

A garden just outside of the playing hall

Spectators climbing chairs to see GM Cori blitzing after the last round. The pile later got bigger

Left to right: GMs Corrales, Leon Hoyos and Kovalyov

The Americans (l-r): FM Betanelli, GM Lenderman and Erik Santarius

You can see the three logos of my sponsors on the shirt

Lineup of officials at the closing ceremony

GM Fidel Corrales receiving his prize

Myself doing the rounds

A chess fan and GM Bruzon

The view from my room, another garden

Big thanks to Janeth for the photos below

Pitterson-Bluvshtein. I guess that’s what I look like when I play

Bluvshtein-Quesada

Left to right: Janeth, myself and Estefania

A short break awaits me. I will be leaving for Havana on in just over a week. More to come on that later.

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Rounds 7-9

Round 7

I was paired against GM Perez Rodriguez, rated 2483 in this round. At this point of the tournament I started estimating how many points I needed to qualify to the World Cup. The top 6 spots qualify, and Bruzon has already qualified. I assumed that 7/9 would result in a long tie-break while 7.5 gets in easily. This felt like a must-win. That would explain my choice of opening.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.04.23”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Perez Rodriguez, Lui M”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “107”]
[EventDate “2011.04.19”]
[SourceDate “2011.04.23”]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e3 e6 5. Nf3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. g4 h6 8. h3 e5
9. Bd2 dxc4 10. Bxc4 b5 11. Bb3 exd4 12. exd4 b4 13. Na4 O-O 14. Bxh6 Qe7+ 15.
Kf1 Qe4 16. Qxe4 Nxe4 17. Be3 Bb7 18. Kg2 c5 19. Rhd1 Rac8 20. Rac1 cxd4 21.
Rxc8 Rxc8 22. Rxd4 Ne5 23. Bd5 Bxd5 24. Rxd5 Nc4 25. Bxa7 Ra8 26. Nb6 Nxb6 27.
Bxb6 Rxa2 28. Bd4 f6 29. Nh4 Ra6 30. Nf5 Bf8 31. Rd8 Ng5 32. Be3 Ne6 33. Rd2 g6
34. Nh4 g5 35. Nf5 Bc5 36. Kf3 Bxe3 37. Kxe3 Ra1 38. Rd6 Rb1 39. Ke4 Kf7 40.
Rd2 Nc5+ 41. Kd5 Na4 42. Nd6+ Kg6 43. Nc4 Rc1 44. Re2 Rb1 45. Kc6 f5 46. Kb5
Rxb2 47. Rxb2 Nxb2 48. Nxb2 fxg4 49. hxg4 Kf6 50. Nd3 b3 51. Kc4 b2 52. Nxb2
Ke5 53. Nd3+ Ke4 54. Ne1 1-0

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e3 e6 5. Nf3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. g4 h6 8. h3 e5 9. Bd2

I played the very aggressive Shirov Attack in the Meran. Black is always a bit nervous about an attack that can ensue on the King-side. 9… dxc4 Black decides to take some of the pressure off of the center. 10. Bxc4 b5 A bit loose. Black retaliates with aggression. This move creates a lot of holes in Black’s position. It also forces Black to play accurately later on.  11. Bb3 11.Bd3 would give White a small edge. My move keeps the Bishop on the diagonal of the f7 pawn, where I can later think about playing g5, to maintain pressure on the pawn with the Knight on g5. 11… exd4? A mistake. Black opens up White’s dark squares Bishop, allowing White another resource in a potential attack. 12. exd4 b4 13. Na4 O-O Black hides his King and forces White into a tough decision.

I thought for about 30min in this position. My top options included 0-0, 0-0-0, and 14. Bxh6!? Suddenly Black finds himself under severe pressure. The first question is whether or not he can take the piece. 14…gxh6 15.Qg6+ Kh8 16.Qxh6+ Kh8 17.0-0! leaves White with an advantage because 18.Ng5 is coming next. The position would still be a complicated one though. 14… Qe7+ 15. Kf1! White’s King is safe on g2. Re1 is an unpleasant threat for Black to face, and so is Qg6. 15… Qe4 Black settles for being down a pawn for the rest of the game. 16. Qxe4 Nxe4 17. Be3 Bb7 18. Kg2 c5 19. Rhd1 Rac8 20. Rac1 cxd4 21. Rxc8 Rxc8 22. Rxd4 White has neutralized Black’s compensation and is now “just” a pawn up. 22… Ne5 23. Bd5 Bxd5 24. Rxd5 Nc4 25. Bxa7 Ra8 26. Nb6 Nxb6 27. Bxb6 Rxa2 28. Bd4 Far in advance, I had missed 28.Rd4 Ra6! which gives Black new hope. 28… f6 It’s important to re-evaluate the situation after drastic changes. A lot has changed recently. White is still up a pawn but winning is not that easy because the b2 pawn is a potential target for later. 29. Nh4 Ra6 30. Nf5 Bf8 31. Rd8 Ng5 I decided to bring the rook back to home base and start improving the position of my King.32. Be3 Ne6 33. Rd2 g6 34. Nh4 g5 35. Nf5 Bc5 36. Kf3 Bxe3 37. Kxe3 Ra1 38. Rd6 Rb1 39. Ke4 Kf7 40. Rd2 Nc5+? I haven’t been playing all that well for the last 10 moves or so. Some of my advantage has evaporated but I still have my extra pawn. Black’s last move, the often critical 40th move, takes the Knight on a journey to find itself in trouble on a4.  Time to activate that King. 41. Kd5! Na4 42. Nd6+ Kg6 42…Ke7 43.Nc4 Kd7 would have offered stronger resistance. 43. Nc4 Rc1

Once again, big changes in the position called for a deep think. 44. Re2! 42.Rd3 is bad due to 42…Rxc4! 43.Kxc4 Nxb2+, where Black will certainly not lose the pawn endgame. The text intends to play Re3-b3-b4. Black’s Knight is trapped on a4, I just need to attack it with caution. 44… Rb1 Black stops the rook’s maneuver. 45. Kc6 The King can capture the Knight as well. White is now easily winning. 45… f5 46. Kb5 Rxb2 47. Rxb2 Nxb2 48. Nxb2 fxg4 49. hxg4 Kf6 50. Nd3 b3 51. Kc4 b2 52. Nxb2 Ke5 53. Nd3+ Ke4 54. Ne1 1-0 White will play f3 next.  Black resigned.

An important game to get back on track with the White pieces and to get into a tie for first. This game lasted over five hours, with another game to follow less than two hours after the end of this one.

Round 8

Once again, there was no time for preparation. I just focused on getting some energy by resting between games. I was to play GM De La Paz Perdomo, rated 2473 this evening. My opponent had quickly drawn his morning game against Bruzon.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.04.23”]
[Round “?”]
[White “De la Paz”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “82”]
[EventDate “2011.04.19”]
[SourceDate “2011.04.23”]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4 d5 6. Bd3 Bd6 7. O-O O-O 8. c4
c6 9. Nc3 Nxc3 10. bxc3 dxc4 11. Bxc4 Bf5 12. a4 Nd7 13. Re1 h6 14. Ba3 Bxa3
15. Rxa3 Re8 16. Rxe8+ Qxe8 17. Ra2 Qf8 18. Re2 Re8 19. a5 b5 20. axb6 Nxb6 21.
Bb3 Nd5 22. Rxe8 Qxe8 23. Ne5 f6 24. Nf3 Qe4 25. h3 Kh7 26. Bxd5 cxd5 27. Kh2
a5 28. Qa1 Qf4+ 29. Kg1 Bxh3 30. gxh3 Qxf3 31. Qxa5 h5 32. Qc5 Kg6 33. Qc8 Kg5
34. c4 Qd1+ 35. Kg2 Qxd4 36. c5 Qe4+ 37. Kg1 d4 38. c6 d3 39. Qd7 Kf4 40. Qxg7
Qxc6 41. Qg3+ Kf5 1/2-1/2

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4 d5 6. Bd3 Bd6 7. O-O O-O 8. c4 c6 9. Nc3 Nxc3 10. bxc3 dxc4 11. Bxc4 Bf5 12. a4 Nd7 13. Re1 h6 14. Ba3 Bxa3 15. Rxa3

I have focused my attention on neutralizing the White pieces. 15… Re8 Fighting for the control of the e-file. 16. Rxe8+ Qxe8 17. Ra2 Qf8 Planning to exchange the second pair of rooks on the e-file next. 18. Re2 Re8 19. a5 Nothing too exciting has happened in the game so far, and it has looked like I am just trying to force a draw with the exchange of pieces. I changed gears. My main goal now was to create as many problems as possible for White. 19… b5 20. axb6 Nxb6 20…axb6 is more focused on equalizing. 21. Bb3 Nd5 Blocking the White Bishop and forcing the issue with the c-pawn. 22. Rxe8 Qxe8 23. Ne5! White “defends” the c-pawn by making other threats. 23…Nxc3 loses to 24.Qf3. The Knight is ideally placed on e5.

23… f6 I thought for a long time about this move. Weakening with this move is very committing. Life against the Knight on e5 is not easy though. This forces White to choose a square for his Knight. 24. Nf3? 24.Nxc6 Qxc6 25.Qf3 Be6 26.c4 Nb4 27.d5 Nxd5 28.cxd5 Qc1+ 29.Bd1 Qd2! (threatening mate and attacking the pawn) leaves Black up a pawn after the capturing of the d-pawn. 24.Nc4 would have been more unpleasant for Black. 24… Qe4! Black takes over the initiative. 25. h3 Kh7 26. Bxd5 cxd5 27. Kh2? 27.Qa1 is bad due to 27…Bxh3! Necessary was 27.Nd2, in an attempt to bring the Knight closer to the a-pawn.

27… a5? 27…Qc2! was close to winning for Black. White can’t exchange queens because he will then be unable to catch Black’s a-pawn. 28.Qe1 a5 would leave White little hopes. 28.Qa1!? Qxf2 29.Qxa7 Be4 30.Qd7 Qe3 wins a pawn, while 30…h5 gives Black total domination. A missed opportunity that I would not get again in this game. 28. Qa1! I had underestimated this move. 28… Qf4+ 29. Kg1 Bxh3 30. gxh3 Qxf3 31. Qxa5 Black is the only one who can play for a win in this endgame, but winning chances are quite slim. 31… h5!? Taking on h3 and c3 will lead to a perpetual due to Qe4+ and Qe8+. The text clears up some space for the King. 32. Qc5 Kg6 33. Qc8 Kg5 34. c4! The only move with the Black King coming in fast. 34… Qd1+ 34…dxc4 35.Qxc4 Qxh3 36.d5 leaves Black up a pawn but facing a strong passed d-pawn. 35. Kg2 Qxd4 36. c5! Of course. The passed pawns neutralize each other. 36… Qe4+ 37. Kg1 d4 38. c6 d3 39. Qd7 Kf4 40. Qxg7 Qxc6 41. Qg3+ Kf5 1/2-1/2

A missed opportunity. I could have been going into the last round in clear first place. Instead, there was an eight way tie for first. This was a very long day for me. I played for a total of 10 hours.

Round 9

I got a good pairing for the last round. I was to play IM Barrientos, rated 2499. I came to Toluca to qualify to the World Cup. Things have changed. Qualifying for the World Cup was still important. But I was also in a position to win the Continental Championships. Opportunity of a lifetime. I’m sure my opponent felt the same way.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.04.24”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Barrientos”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “87”]
[EventDate “2011.04.19”]
[SourceDate “2011.04.24”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. f3 d5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 c5 7. cxd5 exd5 8.
e3 Qc7 9. Ne2 Bf5 10. Nf4 g5 11. Nd3 Nbd7 12. Be2 c4 13. Nf2 Rg8 14. O-O O-O-O
15. e4 dxe4 16. fxe4 Bxe4 17. Nxe4 Nxe4 18. Qc2 Ndf6 19. Rb1 Rg6 20. Rb4 Kb8
21. Rxc4 Qd6 22. Bf3 Qe6 23. Rb4 Nd6 24. c4 Rc8 25. Qb3 Rc7 26. c5 Qxb3 27.
Rxb3 Nf5 28. Bb2 Nh4 29. Be2 Ne4 30. Re3 f5 31. g3 b6 32. Bd3 bxc5 33. gxh4
gxh4+ 34. Kh1 Rb6 35. Rxf5 Rxb2 36. Rf8+ Kb7 37. Bxe4+ Ka6 38. Rf6+ Ka5 39. Rf5
Kb6 40. dxc5+ Rxc5 41. Rxc5 Kxc5 42. Bxh7 Rb7 43. Bf5 Rf7 44. Rf3 1-0

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. f3 Going back to the f3 Nimzo for the last round game. It was an interesting choice. It also threw my opponent off of preparation. 4… d5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 c5 7. cxd5 exd5 8. e3 Qc7 9. Ne2 Bf5 10. Nf4 g5 11. Nd3 Nbd7 12. Be2 c4 13. Nf2 Rg8 14. O-O O-O-O

I had been aiming for this position. White has a plan of eventually playing e4. Black intends to stop e4 and attempt an attack on the king-side.  15. e4! Sacrificing the pawn for strong compensation. Suddenly, my pieces are in sync.  15… dxe4 16. fxe4 Bxe4 16…Nxe4 17.Nxe4 Bxe4 18.Rxf7 gives White an edge. 17. Nxe4 Nxe4 18. Qc2! A very calm move. Black is forced to decide how to defend the Knight on e4. Black’s Knights are lacking good squares while White’s Bishops are about to come out. 18… Ndf6 18…Nd6 19.a4 followed by Ba3 is strong for White. 19. Rb1 Rg6?! An interesting idea which also creates some problems for me. The immediate 19…Kb8 20.Rb4 Rc8 looked more opportunistic for Black. With the text, Black threatens Rh6 and has his own ideas of an attack. 20. Rb4 Kb8 21. Rxc4 Qd6 22. Bf3! White has a clear advantage now. The rook on g6 is completely misplaced. 22…Rh6 23.g3 gives Black no hope of an attack. 22… Qe6 23. Rb4 Nd6 24. c4! The most logical continuation, trying to push the Black pieces as far back as possible. 24… Rc8

This was another crucial position. White has a lot of ways to play. Qb1, Qb2, Qb3 and c5 are all options.25. Qb3!? The simplest continuation. White intends to play c5 next, exchange queens, and win due to Black’s lack of piece coordination. 25… Rc7 26. c5 Qxb3 27. Rxb3 Nf5 28. Bb2 White is not up any material but is close to winning due to the domination of the position. 28… Nh4 The more logical 28…Ne7 fails to 29.d5! after which comes 30.Be5. 29. Be2 29.Bd1 achieves the same. Similar situation as in the 7th round. Black’s Knight is trapped at the corner of the board, this time on h4 (and not a4). 29… Ne4 30. Re3 f5 31. g3 b6 Black attempts to stir up some complication after losing the piece. It’s important to put out the fire before taking the piece to reduce complications. 32. Bd3 bxc5 33. gxh4 gxh4+ 34. Kh1 Rb6 I thought for some time here. I knew that I was close. Just needed to make a few accurate moves. 35. Rxf5! Rxb2 36. Rf8+ Kb7 37. Bxe4+ Ka6 38. Rf6+ Ka5 39. Rf5 Preparing to force the exchange of a pair of rooks to simplify my task. 39… Kb6 40. dxc5+ Rxc5 41. Rxc5 Kxc5 42. Bxh7 Rb7 43. Bf5 Rf7 44. Rf3 1-0


This game was my best of the tournament. I’m proud to have performed well when it counted most. This result left me with a great feeling. I qualified for the World Cup and finished tied for first at the Pan American Championships. The result meant a lot to me. The final standings from the official site.

Rank Name Flags Score Fed. M/F BH SB Rating TPR W-We Mutual PS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1 GM Bruzon Batista, Lazaro 7.5 CUB M 55.0 44.5 2668 2751 +0.88 0.0 39.5 1 1 1 ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 1
2 GM Bluvshtein, Mark 7.5 CAN M 51.0 41.5 2589 2675 +0.82 0.0 38.0 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 ½ 1
3 GM Vescovi, Giovanni 7.5 BRA M 54.0 44.75 2634 2726 +1.06 0.0 37.5 1 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 ½ 1
4 GM Quesada Perez, Yuniesky 7.5 CUB M 52.0 45.0 2620 2848 +1.45 0.0 34.5 1 1 1 1 1 ½ 1 1
5 GM Cori, Jorge 7.0 PER M 52.0 39.0 2485 2638 +1.87 . 36.5 1 1 1 ½ 1 0 ½ 1 1
6 GM Corrales Jimenez, Fidel 7.0 CUB M 51.5 39.75 2597 2603 +0.17 . 34.5 1 1 ½ 1 0 ½ 1 1 1
7 IM Ortiz Suarez, Isan 7.0 CUB M 46.5 35.25 2543 2531 -0.02 . 33.5 ½ 1 1 1 0 ½ 1 1 1
8 GM De La Paz Perdomo, Frank 6.5 CUB M 54.5 35.75 2473 2600 +1.73 . 39.0 1 1 1 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 0
9 GM Lafuente, Pablo 6.5 ARG M 55.5 37.25 2572 2621 +0.73 . 38.5 1 1 1 1 ½ 1 0 1 0
10 GM Friedel, Joshua E 6.5 USA M 54.0 36.75 2529 2598 +0.97 . 38.0 1 1 1 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 0
11 IM Barrientos, Sergio E 6.5 COL M 53.5 35.25 2499 2578 +1.12 . 37.5 1 1 1 1 ½ 0 1 1 0
12 GM Perez Rodriguez, Luis Manu 6.5 CUB M 47.0 30.5 2483 2533 +0.80 . 36.0 1 1 ½ 1 1 ½ 0 1 ½
13 FM Quesada Perez, Yasser 6.5 CUB M 48.5 32.5 2421 2557 +1.75 . 34.0 1 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1
14 GM Gonzalez Zamora, Juan Carl DF 6.5 MEX M 50.5 35.75 2545 2473 -0.61 . 33.5 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1
15 GM Nogueiras, Jesus 6.5 CUB M 49.0 33.75 2566 2520 -0.32 . 33.0 1 1 0 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 ½
16 GM Cordova, Emilio 6.5 PER M 48.5 34.5 2562 2471 -0.74 . 31.5 1 0 1 ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 1
17 Santarius, Erik F 6.5 USA M 45.0 31.75 2274 2501 +2.71 . 31.5 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 1
18 GM Gonzalez Garcia, Jose 6.0 MEX M 49.5 29.75 2511 2485 -0.14 . 35.0 1 1 ½ 1 1 0 ½ 1 0
19 GM Felgaer, Ruben 6.0 ARG M 50.0 30.5 2577 2527 -0.45 . 34.5 1 1 ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 0 ½
20 GM Abreu Delgado, Aryam 6.0 CUB M 50.0 31.0 2485 2527 +0.64 . 34.5 1 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 0

Good results are temporary and are enjoyed for only some time. I always want to do better at the next tournament.

The next post will focus on photos from the event.

Rounds 4-6

Round 4

I was paired against IM Panesso Rivera, rated 2351 in this round. Once again, the evening round gave no opportunity for preparation and the round started 20min late. It was the last time that the round did not start on time. This time the lateness was announced along with the pairings. This was the only round that I was out of the roped up top 8 board zone. I was on the 9th board.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.04.21”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Panesso”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “102”]
[EventDate “2011.04.19”]
[SourceDate “2011.04.21”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. e3 c5 4. Bd3 Nc6 5. O-O d5 6. b3 Be7 7. Bb2 O-O 8. Nbd2
b6 9. c4 cxd4 10. exd4 Bb7 11. Rc1 dxc4 12. bxc4 Qd6 13. Re1 Rfd8 14. Qe2 Rac8
15. Ne4 Nxe4 16. Qxe4 g6 17. d5 exd5 18. cxd5 Qxd5 19. Qxd5 Rxd5 20. Be4 Rb5
21. Ba1 Bf8 22. h4 Rc5 23. Rcd1 Na5 24. Ng5 R5c7 25. Be5 Re7 26. Bf6 Ree8 27.
Bd3 Bg7 28. Rxe8+ Rxe8 29. Bb5 Bc6 30. Bxc6 Nxc6 31. Bxg7 Kxg7 32. Rc1 Rc8 33.
Rc3 h6 34. Ne4 Ne7 35. Ra3 Rc7 36. Nd6 Rd7 37. Ne8+ Kf8 38. Nf6 Rd6 39. Ng4 h5
40. Ne3 Nc6 41. g3 Rd2 42. Rc3 Ne5 43. Ra3 a5 44. Ra4 Rb2 45. Ra3 Ke7 46. Kg2
Kd6 47. Nd1 Rd2 48. Nc3 f5 49. Rb3 Kc6 50. Na4 b5 51. Re3 Nc4 0-1

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. e3 c5 4. Bd3 Nc6 5. O-O d5 6. b3 Be7 7. Bb2 O-O 8. Nbd2 b6 9. c4 cxd4 10. exd4 Bb7 11. Rc1 dxc4 12. bxc4 Qd6 13. Re1 Rfd8 14. Qe2 Rac8 15. Ne4 Nxe4 16. Qxe4 g6 

White does not have a clear plan except for playing d5 and sacrificing the pawn. Black’s Bishop will be coming into f6 soon to add some pressure to White’s center. White did not think much about the pawn sacrifice. 17. d5? Objectively wrong but this pawn sacrifice makes White’s play easy while Black attempts to consolidate. 17… exd5 18. cxd5 Qxd5 19. Qxd5 Rxd5 20. Be4 Rb5
21. Ba1 Bf8 Preparing to play Bg7 at the right time. 22. h4 Rc5 23. Rcd1 Na5 24. Ng5

24… R5c7? 24…Rc4 with the idea of getting the rook away from being attacked when White plays Ne4 is better than the text. White maintains some compensation nonetheless. My move runs into other problems. 25. Be5 Re7 26. Bf6? White needed to change gears and try to regain the pawn with 26.Bd6!, after which a White rook enters the 7th rank or Black has to drop the h7 pawn. The text does not give Black many problems. 26… Ree8 27. Bd3 Bg7 28. Rxe8+ Rxe8 29. Bb5 Bc6 30. Bxc6 Nxc6 31. Bxg7 Kxg7 32. Rc1 Rc8 Neutralizing the White rook and preparing to kick the White Knight back with h6. 33. Rc3 h6 34. Ne4 Ne7 35. Ra3 Rc7 36. Nd6 Rd7 37. Ne8+ Kf8 38. Nf6 Rd6 39. Ng4 h5 40. Ne3 The Knight was forced to a less active position. 40… Nc6 41. g3

A crucial moment in the endgame. Black has been able to extinguish White’s initiative, but it is not clear how to make progress. 41… Rd2 An important move that makes White nervous. Black changes gears from passive to active play and White starts making mistakes. 42. Rc3 Ne5 43. Ra3 a5 44. Ra4 White if fishing without a clear plan. 44… Rb2 45. Ra3 Ke7 46. Kg2 Kd6 Within the last five moves, all of Black’s pieces have gained active posts. 47. Nd1 Rd2 48. Nc3 f5 Controlling the important e4 square. 49. Rb3 Kc6 50. Na4 b5 White is getting squeezed 51. Re3 Nc4 0-1 White resigned as he cannot avoid the loss of a piece.

Pretty good game. Always tough to keep a high level of energy for the evening round. I felt like I played the end of the game quite well. My opponent’s incorrect pawn sacrifice provided me with help in the middle game.

Round 5

I was paired against GM Abreu Delgado, rated 2485.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.04.22”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Abreu Delgado, Aryam”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “57”]
[EventDate “2011.04.19”]
[SourceDate “2011.04.22”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Qb3 dxc4 5. Qxc4 Bg7 6. e4 O-O 7. Nf3 a6 8. e5
b5 9. Qb3 Nfd7 10. e6 fxe6 11. Be3 Nf6 12. a4 b4 13. Qxb4 Nc6 14. Qa3 Rb8 15.
Bc4 Na5 16. Ba2 Nd5 17. Nxd5 exd5 18. O-O Nc4 19. Bxc4 dxc4 20. Bg5 Bf6 21. Bh6
Re8 22. Rfe1 Qd5 23. Rac1 Bf5 24. Qc3 Bd3 25. b4 Qd6 26. Bd2 Rbd8 27. Be3 Rb8
28. Bd2 Rbd8 29. Be3 1/2-1/2
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Qb3 dxc4 5. Qxc4 Bg7 6. e4 O-O 7. Nf3 a6 8. e5 b5 9. Qb3 Nfd7 10. e6 fxe6 11. Be3 Nf6 12. a4 b4 13. Qxb4 Nc6 14. Qa3 Rb8 15. Bc4

All of this has been played before in Kozul-Nedev. My opponent comes up with a new idea. 15… Na5!? A novelty. 16. Ba2 Nd5 17. Nxd5 exd5 18. O-O? 18.Qc3 or 18.Ne5 would have offered White chances for an advantage.  18… Nc4! I underestimated the strength of this move. Black will have a weak pawn structure but it will be fully compensated for with the weakness of the b2 pawn and the strength of Black’s two Bishops. 19. Bxc4 dxc4 20. Bg5 Bf6

White should focus on equalizing the position at this point. 21. Bh6?! A dynamic continuation. The more peaceful 21.Bxf6 exf6 22.Qc3 Qd5 23.Nd2, accepting equality, would have been more in agreement with the position. 21… Re8 22. Rfe1 Qd5 23. Rac1 Bf5 24. Qc3 Bd3 Black prepares to squeeze White after playing 25…Rb3

25. b4! Eliminating the weakness of the b2 pawn at once and now threatening to get a lot of play with Ne5 next. 25… Qd6 Black could have tried to play for a win with 25…a5 26.b5 c5 27.bxc6 Rb3 28.Qd2 Qxc6 29.Qxa5, but the position would be risky for all those involved. 26. Bd2 Rbd8 27. Be3 Rb8l 28. Bd2 Rbd8 29. Be3 1/2-1/2 Neither side has a good way to avoid repetition.

A discouraging game. For the second game in a row with White, I was unable to put much pressure on my opponent and had to split the point. This would have to change if I hoped to finish the tournament well.

Round 6

Another evening game. My morning game did not finish all that fast but I was still able to get some good rest. The pairings came up right before the start of the game so I had no preparation for this game either. I was to play IM Martin Del Campo, rated 2415.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.04.22”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Martin Del Campo”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “42”]
[EventDate “2011.04.19”]
[SourceDate “2011.04.22”]

1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. f4 Bg7 5. Nf3 O-O 6. e5 Nfd7 7. h4 c5 8. h5
cxd4 9. Qxd4 dxe5 10. Qf2 Nf6 11. hxg6 fxg6 12. fxe5 Nh5 13. Qh4 Nc6 14. Be2
Nxe5 15. Ng5 h6 16. Nge4 Bf5 17. g4 Bxe4 18. Nxe4 Nf4 19. Bxf4 Rxf4 20. Nd2 Qd4
21. c3 Qe3 0-1

1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. f4 Bg7 5. Nf3 O-O 6. e5 Nfd7 7. h4 c5 8. h5 cxd4 9. Qxd4 dxe5 10. Qf2

10… Nf6 Forces the issue but is not one of Black’s main options in the position. 11. hxg6 fxg6 12. fxe5?! 12…Bc4+! gave White an advantage after 13.Kh8 14.Ng5 Nh5 15.Nf7+ Rxf7 16.Bxf7, but the position would remain quite unclear. 12… Nh5 13. Qh4 Nc6 14. Be2? 14.Bc4+ was needed once again to develop the Bishop with a tempo.

14… Nxe5! Scary at first but the opening of the h-file is not something to fear when White has little resources. 15.Nxe5 Bxe5 16.Bxh5 gxh5 17.Qg5+ Bg7 18.Qxh5 Bf5 gives Black a clear advantage. 15. Ng5 h6 16. Nge4 Bf5! Black prepares to rid himself of the rather useless Bishop. 17. g4? The losing move. 17… Bxe4 18. Nxe4 Nf4! The move my opponent missed. Suddenly White has no attack but his own King is very vulnerable 19. Bxf4 Rxf4 20. Nd2

White resigned as he cannot stop a big loss of material in the near future.

I felt good about this game. I played a very clean game after my 10th move. I spent a long time in the middle game. It is important to pick the spots where to spend time, especially with critical positions.

At 5/6 I was half a point behind the lead with three rounds remaining.

Arrival and Rounds 1-3

I have never been to Mexico before this trip. I had some concerns about the tournament because there were some problems with my correspondence with the organizers due to our language differences. I got some replies to e-mails in Spanish, sometimes not answering my questions.

I was arriving in Mexico City the day before the event and I needed to get to Toluca. I gave the organizers my flight information, but they never confirmed that they would actually pick me up from the airport… Due to this, I ordered a shuttle bus service from Mexico City to my hotel in Toluca.

Upon arriving in Mexico City, I was pleasantly surprised. Simon Knight greeted me as well as some of the other GMs at the airport and took us to Toluca. It was about a 90 minute drive. We arrived at Hotel Del Rey Inn, a five star facility.

The Tournament

For me this was a special event in many different ways. It was my first Continental Championships. It was my only chance to qualify for the upcoming World Cup. It would also be my first tournament where I wore sponsor clothing, with logos of all my sponsors. My sponsors have been nothing but great to me throughout my journey. The sponsor clothing provided me with a boost for this event.

The tournament would be an intense one with nine rounds in six days. My last double round tournament was in Nuremberg and I learned some important lessons which I was hoping to use this time around.

I went swimming the morning of the first round. Perfect way to get into some sort of conditioning for the tournament. Also a way to clear the mind before the start of the event.

Then came the registration. It has been a long time since I stood in a long line to register for a tournament. This was a long line. Everybody stood there for about an hour after filling out some forms to pay the entry fee. Can’t say that the GMs were happy about this. GM Lenderman and I were in the line from about noon to 1pm.

Round 1

An important thing for most chess players is to get into a “rhythm” with a pre-game routine. Lateness of rounds makes this very hard. The clocks started at around 6pm, instead of the planned 5. This is often the case at big open tournaments.

I played a lot of the games in this tournament without any preparation. You don’t really have a choice when the pairings go up last minute. I played Martinez Ocampo Fernando, rated just above 2100, but without a FIDE rating. The game is below.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.04.19”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Martinez”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “59”]
[EventDate “2011.04.19”]
[SourceDate “2011.04.19”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. h3 O-O 6. Bg5 Nbd7 7. Be2 e5 8. d5 a5
9. g4 Nc5 10. Qc2 Bd7 11. Nf3 Qe8 12. O-O-O a4 13. Nd2 Na6 14. a3 Nc5 15. Rdg1
c6 16. Be3 cxd5 17. exd5 Qc8 18. Kb1 Qc7 19. h4 Rfc8 20. h5 b5 21. hxg6 fxg6
22. g5 Ne8 23. Nxb5 Qb7 24. Bg4 Bxb5 25. cxb5 Rc7 26. Ne4 Nb3 27. Be6+ Kh8 28.
Rxh7+ Kxh7 29. Nf6+ Nxf6 30. Rh1+ 1-0

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. h3 O-O 6. Bg5 Nbd7 7. Be2 e5 8. d5 a5 9. g4 Nc5 10. Qc2 Bd7 11. Nf3 Qe8 12. O-O-O a4 13. Nd2 Na6

I was happy with my position at this point. I have more space in the center and the potential for an attack on the king-side. 14. a3 An important move to make in order to stop Black from sticking his pawn on a3 and his knight on b4. Even at the cost of giving up some control of the b3 square, it’s a must. 14… Nc5 15. Rdg1 Quite primitive, preparing the march of the h-pawn. 15… c6 Black has no other forms of counter-play. 16. Be3 cxd5 17. exd5 This move makes life uneasy for Black. It keeps to c-file closed and introduces the idea of placing a knight on e4 at a later point. 17.Bxc5 dxc5 18.exd5 was also an attractive option but I was unprepared to part ways with this Bishop.

In the position above, it’s difficult to suggest a clear plan for Black. My opponent chooses to make some natural moves. 17… Qc8 18. Kb1 Qc7 19. h4 Rfc8 20. h5 White is clearly better and Black chooses to take extreme measures. 20… b5 An attempt to fight fire with fire. A passive approach would not fare much better. 21. hxg6 fxg6 22. g5 Ne8 23. Nxb5! White dominates the position. 23… Qb7 24. Bg4 Bxb5 25. cxb5 Rc7 26. Ne4 26.Bxc5 Rxc5 27.Be6+ Kf8 28.Qe4 Rb5 29.Nc4 Rb8 30.b4 Rxb4+ 31.axb4 Qxb4+ 32.Kc2 is winning for White but did not look very appealing to me at the time. My attempt was to kill any counter play. 26… Nb3? This move loses on the spot. 26…Nxe4 27.Qxe4 Qxb5 would force me to find 28.Rxh7 Rb8 29.b4, which is also winning for White. Black can never take the rook on h7 because of the mate that follows after White plays Be6 and forces the Black King into a mating net. 27. Be6+ Kh8

Time for the final punches. 28. Rxh7+! It felt like this move should work, especially if I can get the queen to join in on the attack. Of course, the mate was calculated at this point. 28… Kxh7 29. Nf6+ Nxf6 Another pretty line is 29…Bxf6 30.gxf6!, where Black cannot escape mate. 30. Rh1+ 1-0 My opponent resigned as he cannot stop mate. 30…Nh5 is answered with 31.Rxh5+. The Black king is helpless against White’s forces.

This round was about getting the win. That’s what a lot of first rounds are often about. A pretty finish is always a bonus.

Round 2

Another evening round. There was a new wave of players who entered the tournament, both in the top section and in other sections that had their first round on this day. More than 1000 players were to play in the main playing hall, and about 1300 in all the tournaments combined. The round started an hour late once again. Everybody was hoping this trend would stop. A few photos from before the start of the round.

Argentinian GMs Ruben Felgaer and Pablo Lafuente, 30min after the round was expected to start (30min before it actually started)

I joined them, in my sponsor clothing

At the board

I was to play against Jamaican IM Jomo Pitterson, rated 2263. On with the game.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.04.20”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Pitterson”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “88”]
[EventDate “2011.04.19”]
[SourceDate “2011.04.20”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nc3 g6 7. Bg2 Bg7 8. Nf3
O-O 9. O-O Re8 10. Bf4 Na6 11. h3 Nc7 12. a4 b6 13. Re1 Nh5 14. Bg5 f6 15. Bc1
f5 16. Bg5 Qd7 17. Qd2 Nf6 18. Bf4 Bb7 19. Ng5 Nh5 20. Ne6 Nxe6 21. dxe6 Rxe6
22. Nd5 Nf6 23. Nxf6+ Bxf6 24. Bxb7 Qxb7 25. Rad1 Rd8 26. Bg5 Bxg5 27. Qxg5 Qe7
28. Qxe7 Rxe7 29. Rd5 Kf7 30. e3 Re4 31. b3 Rb4 32. Rd3 Ke6 33. Kg2 d5 34. Kf3
Rd7 35. g4 c4 36. gxf5+ gxf5 37. bxc4 dxc4 38. Ra3 Rd2 39. Kg3 Rbb2 40. f3 Ra2
41. Rc3 Rxa4 42. e4 Rd3 43. exf5+ Kxf5 44. Rc2 Raa3 0-1

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nc3 g6 7. Bg2 Bg7 8. Nf3
O-O 9. O-O Re8 10. Bf4 Na6 11. h3 Nc7 12. a4 b6 13. Re1

I decided to play the Benoni in this game. We got a pretty typical position out of the opening. 13… Nh5!? A novelty according to my database. Black intends to kick the White bishop away from f4 and then play f5 to gain control of the e4 square. 14. Bg5 f6 15. Bc1 f5 16. Bg5 Qd7 17. Qd2 Nf6 18. Bf4 Bb7 So far Black has only been making logical moves. 19. Ng5 Nh5! Back to h5 with the Knight. It is generally advantageous for Black to get rid of White’s dark squared Bishop to allow his own bishop to gain dominance. The Bishop on g7 can become very strong on the long diagonal.

20. Ne6? White did not have any great options. I was expecting 20.e4!?, which introduces a sense of unclear chaos into the position. 20.Be3? loses a pawn to 20…Nxg3 21.fxg3 Rxe3! where 22.Qxe3 runs into 22…Bd4. The text gives away a pawn for some temporary initiative. 20… Nxe6 21. dxe6 Rxe6 22. Nd5 Nf6! The Knight has been dancing around f6 and h5 for quite some time now. It’s important for Black to not allow White to dominate the d5 square with his pieces. Now Black is up a healthy pawn. 23. Nxf6+ Bxf6 24. Bxb7 Qxb7 25. Rad1 Rd8 26. Bg5 Bxg5 27. Qxg5 Qe7 28. Qxe7 Rxe7 29. Rd5 Kf7 30. e3 Re4 31. b3 Rb4 32. Rd3 Ke6 33. Kg2 d5 34. Kf3 Rd7 35. g4

We are now in a double rook endgame. Black has a strong center and an active rook on b4. The extra pawn helps too. It’s time for a break. 35… c4! This move activates my pieces for good and leaves White with little saving chances. 36. gxf5+ gxf5 37. bxc4 dxc4 38. Ra3 Rd2! An important move that forces White to start playing passively. 39. Kg3 Rbb2 40. f3 Ra2 41. Rc3 Rxa4 42. e4 Rd3 43. exf5+ Kxf5 44. Rc2 Raa3 0-1 White has had enough. Down two pawns and forced into a passive stance.

This game felt good. A lot of good moves in the middle game came quite easily to me. A smooth victory.

Round 3

This was to be the first morning round and the first round to start on time. I was to play FM Yasser Quesada Perez from Cuba.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.04.21”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Quesada Perez”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “69”]
[EventDate “2011.04.19”]
[SourceDate “2011.04.21”]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. e3 Nf6 4. Nc3 g6 5. Nf3 Bg7 6. Be2 O-O 7. O-O Bg4 8. Qb3
Qb6 9. Qxb6 axb6 10. cxd5 cxd5 11. h3 Bxf3 12. Bxf3 e6 13. Bd2 Nc6 14. Nb5 Rfd8
15. Rfc1 Bf8 16. Be2 Ne4 17. Be1 Nd6 18. a3 Nxb5 19. Bxb5 Na7 20. Bd3 Rdc8 21.
g4 Rxc1 22. Rxc1 Rc8 23. Rxc8 Nxc8 24. f3 Nd6 25. a4 Be7 26. e4 Kf8 27. Kf1 Ke8
28. Ke2 f5 29. e5 Nc8 30. a5 bxa5 31. Bxa5 b6 32. Ba6 bxa5 33. Bxc8 Kf7 34.
gxf5 gxf5 35. Kd3 1/2-1/2
1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. e3 Nf6 4. Nc3 g6 5. Nf3 Bg7 6. Be2 O-O 7. O-O Bg4 8. Qb3 Qb6 9. Qxb6 axb6 10. cxd5 cxd5 11. h3 Bxf3 12. Bxf3 e6

I decided to go for this position because I felt like it would be risk free for me and I wouldn’t have to expend too much energy on this morning round. A practical choice considering the situation. 13. Bd2 Nc6 14. Nb5 Trying to gain control of the c-file. 14… Rfd8 15. Rfc1 Bf8 16. Be2 Ne4 17. Be1 Nd6 18. a3 Nxb5 19. Bxb5 Na7 20. Bd3 Rdc8 Black plans to exchange the rooks and then claim that White can’t find a breakthrough.

21. g4 I decided to expand on the king-side while Black takes time to trade off the rooks. 21… Rxc1 22. Rxc1 Rc8 23. Rxc8 Nxc8 24. f3 Preparing e4. 24… Nd6 25. a4 Be7 26. e4?! This move appears to be rushed. I should have maneuvered my pieces around a bit more before making this commitment. Figuring out what Black would do if I would continue with b3 and placing my king on e2 would have been more logical.  Kf8 27. Kf1 Ke8 28. Ke2 f5! I spent a lot of time on this position. I can win a pawn with 29.gxf5 gxf5 30.exd5 exd5 31.Bg3 Kd7 32.Bxd6 Kxd6 33. Bxf5 h6, but Black will have no problems drawing the arising opposite coloured-bishop endgame. 29. e5?! Not creating any new problems for Black and just kills the position. 29… Nc8

This was decision time for me. Moves like f4 and b4 crossed my mind in an attempt to try to keep playing for a win, which is quite unlikely because Black is very solid and my Bishops do not promise a way to break in. With this being the morning round, I decided to force a draw at once and get ready for the next game. 30. a5 bxa5 31. Bxa5 b6 32. Ba6 bxa5 33. Bxc8 Kf7 34. gxf5 gxf5 35. Kd3 1/2-1/2 We agreed to a draw.

Not an impressive game at all, but I got a rare opportunity to sleep well between rounds and get some needed rest. I knew that I would need to play more ambitiously with the White pieces for the rest of the tournament. A lot of the top seeds were losing points in this round.

From Toluca

Just a quick update. I’m very happy to announce a four way tie for first at the Continental Championships in Toluca. I got second place on tiebreak! You can check out the tournament website for now. Some of the games are entered inaccurately. There are no final results online yet.

More to come when I’m home…